|Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves: Don’t worry about Jon Lester throwing over||04.10.15 at 11:32 am ET|
NEW YORK — It took just one start for the panic to set in at Wrigley Field.
Jon Lester doesn’t make pickoff throws! In fact, he has now gone 66 straight games without attempting a throw to first, with the last one coming all the way back on April 30, 2013.
The reason for the sudden attention to Lester’s approach with runners on base was due to the usually station-to-station Cardinals attempting four steals off the lefty in his first start as a Cub.
For those who lived through the reality of Lester’s approach with the Red Sox, the conversation seems much to do about nothing.
“It’s not a big deal,” said Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves. “First of all, he’s a guy who changes patterns and times to the plate. A lot of guys never ran on him because how quick he is to the plate.
“I know we practiced a lot in spring training, but he decided to vary his holds and focus on his pitching. I thought he managed that correctly.”
Nieves served as Lester’s pitching coach for 59 regular and postseason starts, during which time the starter went 29-16 with a 3.11 ERA. In that span the pitcher saw baserunners succeed in stealing 22 of 29 times. It was 31 fewer attempts than John Lackey endured in the same time period, and the same as Felix Doubront (who allowed two more successful steals).
|Buster Olney on MFB: Dustin Pedroia’s power biggest takeaway from Opening Day||04.08.15 at 11:58 am ET|
ESPN’s Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on with Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox after their impressive start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
“The fact that Pedroia hit for power to me was the thing that jumped out,” Olney said. “Because I know all of last year — and look, nobody engenders more respect around baseball than Dustin Pedroia does, and people love the way he plays, but I heard it from a lot of people, whether it was scouts or other players, they wondered if Dustin was ever going to get back to being able to hit for any kind of power, because he’s had so many nagging injuries — wrist, hands, the whole thing — and that was a great sign on the first day that he was able to do something.
“When you’re playing the Phillies right now it is a little bit Christians and the lions situation because they are really bad. But that’s a great start for them.”
The much-maligned Clay Buchholz pitched like a No. 1, allowing no runs and just three hits through seven innings.
“We’ve seen it in the past, he’s certainly capable of pitching really well,” Olney said. “And you’re right, it’s a good sign, it doesn’t matter who you’re facing. You can only compete against the guys who are in front of you. … Everything that I saw, he looked in command. Most of the time you liked the tempo, which I always thought was a barometer when you watch Buchholz is how quickly is he working between pitches. The faster he works, the better it seems he is; the slower he works, the more uncertain he seems to be. The other day he seemed like he was very comfortable.
“It’s a great first sign from a team that needs, let’s face it, contributions from all ends of their rotation.”
|SI’s Tom Verducci on MFB: Red Sox ‘the best team in a very weak division’||04.06.15 at 1:07 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci checked in with Middays with MFB on Monday to talk about the Red Sox and other news from around the majors. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
“I do think the Red Sox are the best team in a very weak division,” he said. “It could be 90 wins or maybe even less to win this division. You could make a case for any team to finish first — and maybe even last. … But to me the Red Sox are a team that has the best offense in all of Major League Baseball. And I think their pitching is just good enough to be the best in a weak division.”
There’s been speculation that the Red Sox will go after a premier pitcher sooner rather than later, but Verducci said that might not be as crucial as some people think.
“I’m not a real big believer in that,” he said. “I know a lot has been focused on the fact that the Red Sox don’t have an ace. The team that won the division last year with 94 wins didn’t have an ace — the Baltimore Orioles. I just think the way the game is played now is entirely different than what it was 10 or 20 years ago.
“Listen, in a perfect world I’d rather have the Nationals rotation than anybody else in baseball — I’d want five aces. There’s just not enough of those pitchers to go around. But with a dynamic offense, I think they have a premier defense, I think their defense could be one of the top three in the American League.
“To me, actually, the key is going to be the bullpen. Whether they have the right pieces now, whether they make changes during the course of the season. I think you can win with basically average starting pitching as long as you have a great offense, really good defense — which they have — and a really good bullpen. And I think the key is actually figuring out how they use their bullpen and what the construct is of that bullpen.”
|Curt Schilling on D&C: ‘You don’t have to have an ace to win’||02.25.15 at 10:24 am ET|
Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to talk about the American League East, pitching, the Red Sox and more. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
As it usually is in February, but more this year than others for Schilling, it’s tough to judge how good the American League East will be. There are question marks around many of the teams in the division, and different aspects of different clubs put them in position to fight for the first spot in the division or end up at the bottom.
“I don’t know that it’s terrible,” the ESPN analyst said. “The team that, to me, that could win by 15 games and I wouldn’t be shocked is Toronto.
“If you look around the division,” Schilling continued,”in Baltimore, they have by far one of the division’s best game managers and a roster that’s talented, but there are more talented rosters. I think if you look at Boston, you have a guy who’s a great communicator, probably not even, I don’t think anybody is the game manager that Buck Showalter is, and a very talented roster, but again, it’s February and there has never been a year for me more so than this year where they’re saying, ‘Hey, I want to see where they are at the end of camp.'”
Though the Red Sox have added some offense to the lineup, Schilling isn’t as enamored with the additions as some have been.
“I think it makes their lineup deeper,” he said. “As long as they’re healthy and David [Ortiz] is David and Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] is back. I don’t know, and maybe it’s personal, I never get overly emotional about offensive signings just because you can score as many runs as you want, but if you can’t stop them from scoring it doesn’t matter.”
|Morning Fort: Dustin Pedroia arrives healthy, proclaims ‘everyone’s fired up and ready to go’||02.21.15 at 9:52 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia has had enough of hand surgeries. He’s also had enough of last place finishes.
He and the Red Sox have proven the ability to overcome both over the last two seasons. He’s hoping to repeat the comeback story again in 2015.
Last September, Pedroia had season-ending surgery on his left wrist to relieve tendon pressure and remove scar tissue buildup. In Nov. 2013, after helping the Red Sox to a World Series title, the second baseman had UCL surgery on his left thumb. Pedroia suffered an initial thumb injury on a head-first slide into first base on opening day at Yankee Stadium in 2013. In last year’s home opener against the Brewers, Pedroia slid head-first into second base and re-injured the hand.
Pedroia said Saturday morning upon arriving at JetBlue Park that he’s all set and ready to go, with no restrictions.
“Yeah, I feel great,” Pedroia said. “I’m ready to go. I’m excited. It’s fun. Getting back to work. It’s a new year. Everyone’s excited so it should be fun.”
As for his offseason?
“Lifted weights. Got ready, man,” Pedroia said. “Same as every other offseason except the last couple I’ve had to deal with surgeries and stuff. I got this one done quick so I was able to have a normal offseason of lifting weights and conditioning and all that stuff. I’m ready to go.”
As for his team, Pedroia is well aware of the worst-to-first-to-worst trend from 2012 through 2014. Now, with a rebuilt starting rotation and the additions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, there are great expectations again after a 71-91 finish last year. And Pedroia shares that optimism.
“Yeah, we’ve obviously done it before. But you have to take it one day [at a time]. We have to worry about today’s practice and go out there and try to get better today,” Pedroia said. “You can’t look at the big picture. If you do the right things every day, at the end you’ll be where you’re at.
“We made a lot of great moves. Obviously, we have a very talented group. It’s our job to form it together and play together. Everyone’s excited and ready to play baseball. It was kind of a long winter. Everyone’s fired up and ready to go.” Read the rest of this entry »
|A look at how Red Sox starting rotation took shape (and why it doesn’t include Max Scherzer, James Shields)||02.16.15 at 11:36 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The entire Red Sox starting rotation — Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly — walked out to the back fields at Fenway South Monday, ready to partake in another day of drills and throwing.
It is still five days before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers, and the entire group has already been roaming the JetBlue Park fields in their Red Sox garb for at least a few days.
Cole Hamels rumors or not, this potentially ace-less collection has already dug in on believing they are all the Red Sox need.
“Of course you want to ride with the group we have,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if anybody has paid any attention to that. I think everybody’s so new here our minds are focused on coming in here, focusing in on spring training and having a good year. But pitching is pitching and we’ll see how it shapes up for all five of us. … If everybody had their career year, we would be unstoppable.”
Unless the Phillies’ price drops, the Red Sox are also dug in on this bunch. So, how did they arrive at such a rotation?
According to major league sources, here are some particulars about the Red Sox’ approach to picking these pieces:
— The Red Sox did have interest in free agent Max Scherzer, actually valuing him as much as Jon Lester. But after numerous discussions with Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, it became clear the righty’s price tag was going to be too big for the Red Sox’ to swallow.
According to one source, at no point during the offseason did Boras hint that he was concerned Scherzer wouldn’t get his money, potentially leading to a more palatable reduced rate. In the end, the former Tigers hurler inked a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nationals.
— The Red Sox did meet with free agent James Shields at the winter meetings, but never identified the starter as a great fit. It was determined by the organization that pitching home games at Fenway Park might not be the best avenue for Shields, who carries a career record of 2-9 with a 5.42 ERA. The money Shields ultimately got with the Padres — four years, $75 million with a fifth year club option for $16 million — was in the vicinity of the Red Sox anticipated.
|Jon Lester would have said ‘probably yes’ to 5-year, $120 million offer last spring from Red Sox||12.18.14 at 8:46 pm ET|
Former Red Sox pitcher and current Cubs pitcher Jon Lester joined the Hot Stove show Thursday night with Mike Mutnansky, Rob Bradford and Alex Speier to discuss what the free agent process was like, what the negotiations last spring training were like with the Red Sox, and also what it was like the hours and days following officially signing with the Cubs.
Lester signed with the Cubs for six years and $155 million, with a vesting option for a seventh year.
Everyone keeps coming back to the reported four-year, $70 million offer the Red Sox gave to Lester during spring training last season. What if the Red Sox came in with a higher offer — such as the Cliff Lee, five-year, $120 million deal — would Lester have accepted?
“That is one of those deals where hindsight is 20/20. You go back in time and you look at it and you go, ‘probably yes,’ ” said Lester. “I mean you don’t know. I mean it is one of those deals where when it is sitting in front of you that is a lot of money to turn down. That would have made it very difficult to turn it down.”
Following spring training, Lester and his camp were under the impression the two sides would not discuss a contract during the season because that was what was agreed between them and the Red Sox, and they didn’t want any distractions for he and his teammates during the year.
“As far as I understood, and that is not coming from my agent, that is from what I understood coming out of everyone’s mouth was that once the season started, I think we had all agreed upon that and it wasn’t just one side saying we don’t negotiate during the season,” Lester said. “I think it was more a group discussion and a group decision that if we weren’t able to come to a conclusion with the contract negotiations before the season started we thought it was in the best interest of everybody to table it ’till the offseason and wait until the season is over and all the distractions of playing, the ups and downs of the season and all that to get after it again.
“Like I said the other day, I don’t know if that is a bad quality or a good quality, but I am kind of hard-headed when it comes to that. If we make a decision one way or the other, just like if we would have made the decision to continue talking I would have expected that to continue. I think we all kind of decided at that time with the distractions of everything going on it wasn’t the right time or place to continue the discussions.”
|Jon Lester: Trade to A’s ‘broke that barrier’ about leaving Red Sox as free agent||12.15.14 at 2:50 pm ET|
Jon Lester, at the press conference introducing him with the Cubs upon the completion of his six-year, $155 million deal, said that the Red Sox‘ decision to trade him to the A’s at the July 31 deadline (along with Jonny Gomes in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes) did impact his view of the free agent process. Lester said that it became easier to imagine changing organizations once he experienced success with a new club. (After going 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 21 starts with the Red Sox, Lester went 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts for the A’s.)
“I think so,” Lester told reporters of whether being traded impacted his approach to free agency. “We were traded. That was the unknown of going to a whole different coast, a whole different organization, a whole different philosophy. I think going there prepared us for this time. I think if we finished out the year in Boston and you get down to this decision, I think it would be a lot harder. Not to say it wasn’t hard as it was, but that broke that barrier of, ‘I wonder if I can play for another team.’ I think we answered those questions.”
Still, Lester acknowledged that he agonized over the decision-making process, particularly the final determination about whether to return to Chicago, return to Boston (which offered a six-year, $135 million deal) or consider the interest of West Coast suitors (most prominently the Giants). He fielded countless calls from teammate Dustin Pedroia (among others) before coming to terms with his decision.
“I kind of describe the process in two different forms. I think when you’re sitting there meeting with people, we got to come to Chicago, meet with these guys, enjoy dinner. We had some other teams that came into our house, meet with those people. I think that’s kind of the fun, exciting time. You get to hear different philosophies. You get to meet different people that you probably won’t get to be around. And then you have kind of the second phase where you have to sit down and make a decision. That part, for us, was not fun,” Lester said at the press conference. “That was a lot of phone calls, a lot of minutes sitting down and thinking about what we were going to do. But as far as the decision-making, we made it literally hours before it was probably announced. Just sitting down with these guys, sitting down with my wife, trying to iron it out, it came down to that final moment where we just put our fist down, said, ‘This is it. This is where we’re going to go. This is where we feel the most comfortable.’ We’re not people that are going to put one foot in the pool. We’re going to dive in. That’s what we did.
|Larry Lucchino on M&J on Jon Lester: ‘To a man, we were surprised we didn’t get into a sequential negotiation’||12.13.14 at 1:34 pm ET|
Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino joined Mustard & Johnson Saturday at Fenway Park during Christmas at Fenway to discuss the Jon Lester contract negotiations and what went wrong, as well as other Red Sox matters. To hear the interview, visit the Mustard & Johnson audio on demand page.
Much has been made of the reported 4-year/$70 million contract the Red Sox offered Lester during spring training last season. Lucchino went into the reasoning behind that offer, and to the Red Sox it was only viewed as a starting point, as the organization wanted to have conversations following that offer.
“We did make a number of efforts to reignite negotiations and I think as Ben has said, we went in just to get the process rolling and we came up with a number — Josh Beckett had signed for $68 million for four years and that was the largest number for a pitcher we had ever given to a non-free agent,” Lucchino said. “We thought that was a principle place to start and that was all that it was perceived to be. For whatever combination of reasons there was a reluctance on the part of…”
“I think we all were surprised,” Lucchino added of the reluctance of the Lester camp to continue negotiating. “Matters of this type are shared along John [Henry], Tom [Werner] and Ben [Cherington] and myself and other folks in the baseball operations department. To a man, we were surprised we didn’t get into a sequential negotiation.”
Lucchino was also asked if he regrets what took place last spring, and he admitted he does because of the final result.
“I think the short answer has to be yes because we didn’t get the job done,” he said. “Our job was to get Jon Lester signed and to make him a long-term member of the Red Sox organization. This is a results oriented business. Finishing second is not our business plan. I wish it had developed differently. I don’t think it does us much good now to replay each step along the way. We felt when we started that we were beginning a negotiation would take place fairly intensively through spring training and perhaps into the season, but certainly through spring training, and that didn’t happen.”
Lester reportedly signed with the Cubs for six years and $155 million with a vesting option for a seventh year. The Red Sox have openly been reluctant to give out long-term deals of late, and that was something the organization was faced with during the Lester negotiations.
“We have to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future,” Lucchino said. “I would tend to think most baseball fans understandably focus on the next year, the next season. One of Ben Cherington’s jobs is, in fact it is a job for all of us in the senior leadership of the Red Sox, is to keep one eye on what is around the corner — the next couple of years, not right now. John Henry is a brilliant analyst. He’s also an imperialist. He looks and he sees what’s happened and puts it together and sees a track record that is less than encouraging with long-term deals in general. He’s not the only one that has that view.”
|Buster Olney on MFB: ‘With a couple more moves, the Red Sox could easily win this division again’||12.11.14 at 2:10 pm ET|
The Red Sox have been very active in the last day or so with adding to their starting rotation. Wednesday night they reportedly traded for Arizona’s Wade Miley and Thursday they traded for Rick Porcello with the Tigers, and also reportedly signed free agent Justin Masterson. Olney feels the way things are going, they are in good shape relative to the rest of the American League East.
“I would say this, Miley, Porcello, you’re talking about No. 3 type starters, but here’s the thing, you have to remember where the Red Sox are in context of this division,” said Olney. “The Orioles are way down, they’ve taken a couple of huge hits during this offseason. The Yankees are in a very murky situation. A lot of older players. The Blue Jays have some real holes on that team. Tampa Bay seems to be taking a step back. I still think with a couple more moves, the Red Sox could easily win this division again, especially with the additions they have made with their lineup.”
Although the team has added three pitchers, none of which are so called “aces.” Olney notes adding a potential No. 1 starter, such as Cole Hamels, may be easier said than done given the current market.
“It’s really not clear whether they are going to get that No. 1 because like a game of musical chairs, the options are certainly drying up,” Olney said. “We’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been talk with the Phillies that we know of about Cole Hamels, as much as we maybe anticipated. They may already know this is something that is not going to happen. They are on his no-trade list for a reason and a lot of pitchers, especially where they are in the second half of their careers, they don’t want to pitch in the American League. They don’t want to go to the American League East. Imagine if you are Cole Hamels and you could try and steer yourself into a situation where you could go back to Southern California where he is from, or you could leave yourself in a position where you have to be the guy to replace Jon Lester in Boston — in terms of comfort level that’s not really close.”
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